When we think of the islands in the Caribbean, we often think that they are all the same. Beachfront resorts, high-rise condos and plenty of tourists taking advantage of duty free shopping. But there’s one island with a distinct energy, community and landscape. The tiny volcanic island of Saba located in the Dutch Caribbean, is only five square miles and has a population of just under 2,000 people. The island is known as “The Unspoiled Queen” and for good reason. With its sweeping hillside views, lush rainforests and narrow winding roads, Saba feels like another world.
Getting to the island isn’t terribly difficult. You can take a 90-minute ferry ride or a fifteen minute flight from St. Maarten, with both offering incredible scenery from the sea and air. Saba is well known for its diving as well as other outdoor activities like hiking—the island has 11 trails for amateurs as well as seasoned hikers. If you are a new to hiking, you should start with the Sandy Cruz Trail. It is a 3 ½ hour hike up and down the hills through the Saba rainforest. You won’t see a lot of wild animals except for goats, but there is an opportunity to enjoy the cilantro that grows wild or pick some avocado from the tree for an extra boost of energy.
Queens Garden Resort
Located in Saba’s Troy Hill neighborhood, The Queen’s Garden Resort sits 1,200 feet above sea level providing spectacular jungle and ocean views from every inch of the property. In need of a much needed escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, Queens Garden was going to be a way to turn the phone off and disconnect from the outside world. Knowing that this is where the Dutch Queen Máxima Zorreguieta stays when visiting the island, the excitement grew as we arrived. Pulling into the uphill driveway, we were greeted by the owner Claire Verbeke-Nuyens, with cocktails and a cold towel in hand. You could hear the leaves from the trees that surrounds the property rustling about as the breeze from the ocean swept through.
Shortly after arriving, we were whisked away to one of twelve private-floor suites, but not before passing through the courtyard with a gorgeous gazebo with views of the pool and the outdoor bar lounge. Once inside the spacious suite, there was an instant feeling of home. The décor was warm and inviting with elegant antique furniture. The separate living area with sliding glass doors overlooked the pool and bar lounge.
The elegance continued into the bedroom with an antique wrought iron bed draped with bed netting. Sleeping with the windows open to breath in the fresh air flowing in from the sea and the mountains, allowed for a chance to enjoy being immersed in the surrounding nature.
Queen’s Gardens offers Saba’s first and only spa on the island. Walking into the two-story bungalow, the lower level has a Finnish Sauna, Turkish Steam Bath and a Jacuzzi located on the outdoor deck. For more specific body treatments, such as massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, leads you upstairs. Walking up to the second level of Frangiapani, has the feel of going up into a tree house with the dark wood and the open windows with the trees within arm’s reach. The massage table looks directly out over the mountains and ocean and as you are massaged into a relaxed state while listening to the bird’s chirp and the cicadas sing.
Queen’s Garden Restaurant
Serving a la carte breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Queen’s Garden Restaurant sits in the middle of the resort. The menu is a mix of Caribbean dishes with French influence and a fusion of East and West cuisines. You will also find local delicacies such as Saba Lobster. Native to Saba these lobsters are spiny and have a hard-outer shell. Most of them are caught within the 60-mile stretch of a submerged atoll called Saba Bank. During breakfast and lunch, Queen’s Garden Restaurant has a more casual setting but for dinner it transforms into an upscale fine dining experience.
For a more unique, intimate setting, reserve the storybook gazebo in the center of the courtyard outfitted with florescent lights and ivy that makes for a romantic private dinner. When you think the views and unique experiences at Queen’s Garden couldn’t get any better, a private dinner in The Bird’s Nest that is perched high above in a 100-year old mango tree gives you a 360-degree view of the property.
On the final night, we headed off property to enjoy more local cuisine, taking a ten-minute taxi ride to Chez Bubba. Also, owned by the Queen’s Garden Resort, Chez Bubba is a French Bistro offering French classics like escargot. But if you aren’t quite ready to go head first into French cuisine, the thinly sliced beef carpaccio dressed with a creamy truffle dressing and capers is an ideal way to start dinner. The ingredients used at Chez Bubba are local to Saba and are so fresh that the menu changes daily.
Although Saba is a bit remote, you will find all your modern luxuries at Queen’s Garden Resort including WiFi. But I suggest you disconnect from technology and enjoy the peacefulness and relaxation the island and resort offers.